S (Scripture): Matthew 18:15 (Jesus said to his disciples) “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven).”
O (Observation): Jesus is talking to his disciples about sin. He shows that the humility of little children is what is expected of those entering the kingdom. Then Jesus warns against causing these little ones to sin – cut off your hand, pluck out your eye, should you find these to lead you into sin. He says not to look down on these little ones (that is, those who have humbled themselves as little children), but indeed risk leaving the righteous to pursue the one who wanders astray.
So Jesus is setting up this conversation about forgiveness with a call to humility and mercy. That someone who sins against you should be treated fairly and with respect. That this one who sins against you should be treated with grace and mercy.
Often, we see the line “treat them as you would a Gentile and a tax collector” and you would think that means to treat them with disrespect or as lesser than you…but how did Jesus treat sinners and tax collectors? With grace and mercy! (In fact, he called a tax collector to be one of his disciples!)
The beauty of this arrangement of approaching one who sins against you is that if an agreement is made between the two parties, God promises to be in their midst and bless them.
Then Peter does an interesting thing: he opens his mouth : ) (Haven’t you learned yet, Peter? : )
Forgiveness is not capped off at a certain quota. There is no quota when it comes to forgiveness.
A (Application): Much harm has been done by those who take these Matthew 18 verses out of its context. They take the part about approaching those who have sinned…and they use it as a justification for going after those “sinners.” Sometimes that means individuals…sometimes that means whole groups of people.
What these folks are missing is the context. Treating those who sin against you is the key here, and to treat them with respect. Don’t look down on these folks. With a broken and contrite heart…approach those who have hurt you. As if you’re talking to a little child. (Not in a condescending way…but a gentle way.)
I’m not saying avoid the conversation…just take care in the tone used and the attitude of your heart as you approach the person.
And remember that forgiveness was given to you by our God in Heaven. So, too, do we give forgiveness to those who sin against us.
P (Prayer): Lord, we are broken people and harm one another. Remind us that you pave the way for forgiveness between us. Amen.